Thursday, June 25, 2015

Hell is Coming

There's things goin' on that you don't know. -Lynyrd Skynyrd

I normally use this blog to share musings and convictions on matters of life and faith.

I do not wish to be a political pundit.

Faith and life (and the two are inseparable, whether you are Christian or not), however must include those things which are going on around us.

We have the relatively recent example of the Protestant church in Germany before us.

With the 40 year-long holocaust of abortion proceeding in its destruction of life, the rising tide washing away biblical definitions of marriage (you know them, or need I post those as well?) and the proliferation of hate laws around us, we are faced with the same choice which faced German Christians in the '30s: do we stand for biblical truth or do we bow the knee to Baal?

I have been amused and saddened by the firestorm of controversy directed toward the Confederate battle flag. "Historians" on both sides have weighed in with their (not "there," btw) opinions.

Military geniuses of all eras have put forth the strategy of indirection: make a threatening noise over here to distract the enemy while preparing for an all-out assault at a different point.

"What?" you say.

Simply this, the rebel flag brouhaha is simply a distraction while something more devious is going on.

Yes, I stand by every American's right to own and display the flag of his or her choice. Be that a Mexican flag, Cuban flag, rainbow flag, or even, for proud immigrants from the Great White North, the Canadian Maple Leaf flag.

Hmmm, did I leave one out?

You all remember this one. Note that the section on political views contains the phrase, "xenophobic worldview."

Do you think we could substitute the word "racist" for "islamophobe" and come up with two similar scenarios? Is the root cause for these tragedies something other than racial or religious or cultural prejudice? Or Confederate flags?

True story: Ein and I are driving down Reelfoot Avenue the other day. In front of us is an SUV speeding up, slowing down and otherwise behaving in a somewhat erratic manner. We pass, and we both look over to see who's driving.

OMG!! It's a woman talking on a cell phone!

Well, you know how we feel about that. It's dangerous and illegal, yes, but our ire is directed toward the driver herself (who perhaps was acting thoughtlessly or ignorantly), and aggravated by the fact that she had a fat, fleshy pale arm resting against the driver's door window.

Please don't judge me. Just pray for me. I really do want to love my neighbor as myself. But I still need God's strength to overcome the temptation to hate (?) the "other."

The point of this extended rant?

Maybe it is that I speak most particularly to my brothers and sisters in Christ. Be tolerant, but stand for the right. Those are two separate things (Luke 6:37; Matthew 12:33). It is important that we use biblical discernment to distinguish between right and wrong.

It is important, as well, that we speak the truth out of love and concern. Souls depend on it.

The main point is that we must be aware of the times we live in; to not be distracted, but to be prayerfully concerned about the issue at hand: the coming of the gates of hell against the kingdom of Christ.

Victory is assured.

And whatever price we must pay will be well worth it.

The consequences are eternal.

...what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God...! -2 Peter 3:11b-12a

Friday, June 19, 2015

The Bestest Dad Ever

You may have heard me say that I was scared of my daddy until I was nearly 30.

Not much, in looking at him, that would inspire fear. His friends knew him as a genial man, full of good humor and always ready to extend the hospitality of his home.

Even those who worked for him considered him their friend more than their boss. They acceded to his requests with the same good will with which he made them.

I would even say that we kids were spoiled. He certainly demanded (and received) our utmost respect. But even in that, he spoke to us with love and gentleness, even in the midst of correction.

Looking back, I can see how, many times, I must have grieved him. I can well recall the expression upon his face on several occasions.

Without wishing to seem blasphemous, I guess I can say that there was a moral certitude about him, an authority if you will, that we would otherwise attribute to God.

Please do not mistake me. I simply believe that to a child, a loving Christian dad models that love that God has for those He has redeemed and adopted as our heavenly father.

It's a tough job, I now realize, to command that respect, while at the same time expressing that loving tenderness that we guys are seemingly so ill-equipped to express.

At any rate, I think I came to fear his disapproval more than anything, and even that was gradually replaced by a love (which was always there right?) and respect for this man who dedicated his life, in large part, to me, my brother, and two sisters.

That dedication was especially brought home to me in his devotion to my sister who was dying of MS. In her bi-polar affliction, she was many times less appreciative than she might have been.

Yet he bore it all with a patience and paternal love which amazed me at the time and has been driven home even more deeply over the years by my own experience and failure.

So to finally arrive at the point, if you have been blessed with a godly father who gave his best for you, won't you join me in praising God.

For the "bestest dad ever."

I love you, man.

Monday, June 15, 2015


I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine. -Song of Songs 6:3a

Beloved of God.

And God has absolute power over all that is; down to the most insignificant molecule somewhere on the edge of the universe.

I can't express to you what perfect comfort there is in knowing and embracing that fact. Unless you already know it and affirm it yourself.

Romans 8:28-29 comes alive in the heart that clings to this all- powerful God who sees to the blessedness of His adopted children.

The necessary and inevitable "Why" becomes a searching for the blessing, for the guidance, for a sense of the purpose, behind even the most tragic of life's events.

Strangely (even comically), this meditation was brought about because I lost a ring.

Several years ago, for Christmas, I bought Ms. Joycie "one for the thumb;" a ring for the hand that had fingersful of rings.  A simple gold band, with the inscription running around the outside from Solomon's Song, chapter 6, verse 3.

After the funeral, I began to wear it on my right pinkie finger. I noticed it was a bit loose at times but thought nothing of it. Sometime over the weekend I found it missing from my finger.

A sad thing. But a silly thing, you might say, to think that God has anything to do with the loss of something so small and (in the overall scheme of things) inconsequential.

Then I invite you to consider this God who has made all things and, of course, rules over them. Even rings worn on the pinky of my right hand.

I will admit, in light of recent events, that the loss of this object is indeed a fairly minor concern.

Isn't it amazing how, having embraced this huge God, we seek comfort in the small things he has ordained?

Perhaps I have needed a reminder that though she is certainly my beloved, she is also Christ's beloved. Even more so, now that she stands in His presence with the saints, amidst the company of angels.

Perhaps it is another reminder not to cling too tightly to the things of this world; that there is so much better to come.

Or perhaps that I should write this and that you should read it and receive comfort in whatever trial you are experiencing.

May it be so.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Young Love Lies Dreaming

Or perfect silence, or song of cherished lips. -Christina Rossetti

Talking with two dear friends and the nature of relationships came up in the conversation.

"You've got to show your wife affection," the husband spoke in agreement with a statement I had made.

"Men need respect," the wife commented, "and women need affection."

How true I have found this to be, in a marriage that lasted thirty years. And in this couple, whom I have long loved and admired, I have seen a continual living out of this principle.

We serve, after all, and in what area of our lives should we be more aware of the needs of each other than in this most foundational human relationship of one man and one woman?

But we fall short, don't we?

I must thank God for an early awareness (even in an infidel heart) to meet this basic need in my wife. And I thank Him even more for a growing commitment to meet that need, however imperfectly.

But I thank God most of all for a faith, freely given and completely unmerited, that pointed me to a deep appreciation for the gift I had been given and the desire to express that appreciation by loving, nurturing and cherishing this wife, however imperfectly.

That young love which draws us together (as men and women) can fade so quickly, it seems. The passion, the desire, the utter absorption with this other one: so beautiful, so different, but so precious.

Some might say that this is good; that such strong emotions cannot be permanent. An easiness, a comfortableness, a sense of companionship are the desired ends of a mature relationship.

Yes, but no.

Should not the passion, desire, and absorption grow ever stronger as we come to know the other more deeply, more intimately than ever (however imperfectly)?

This is love, don't you think, that desire and dedication should go hand-in-hand. That commitment should increase. That two should indeed become as one.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Kisses Like Fire, Part 2: Crime, Punishment and Heartbreak

And let me take a long last look, before we say goodbye.
-Don Henley

Monday morning, it’s back to the grind as Denton carries on with the drone and we work to stay under his radar. Everything else is a piece of cake. Business English? How much trouble can it be to address an envelope? History? Please. I’ve been reading this stuff in The Book of Knowledge since I was nine years old.

"How about the Maroon-White game?" I ask Jennie Beth.
"How about it?" This is what we term a non-committal answer.
"Wanna meet-up there?"
"Good idea."
"Thanks, ma’am. I figgered yuh’d like it."

Sue Groves and her jerky boyfriend from Central, Ken, are sitting in the front row of the bleachers when we get to the game.
"Hey, y’all."
"Hey," they reply in unison. What a really cute girl like Sue is doing with a knucklehead like Kenny is one of those mysterious questions that has no answer. Not even Sue knows. Anyway, he is being his usual smart-alecky self, being kinda mean to Sue and all; you know the type. We send him to the concession stand so we don’t have to put up with him for a while. That's when Jennie Beth and I decide to punish him. J.C., one of our Drama Club buddies, has shown up and agrees to help us. The condemned man, uh make that Kenny, returns.
"Hey, thanks man," I say.
"Who would take care of you guys if I didn’t," he replies. See what I mean?
Jennie Beth and J.C. are engrossed in conversation. I’ve swapped places with her and lean across Sue to whisper to Ken.
"Hey man, ask ole J.C. over here if his sister still watches Batman on T.V."
"Yeah. Go on and ask him."
"I don’t even know this guy." Ken looks doubtful, as if that ever stopped him from being obnoxious in the past.
"Ah, go on. It’s a big joke we have. He’ll think it’s hilarious." Convinced, Ken looks over at J. C. with his smirkiest simpering grin.
"Hey, man," he smirks. J.C. gazes at him, all innocence.
"Hey, does your sister still watch Batman on T.V.?" He’s really smirking now, as though he just delivered the killer line of the year. In an instant, J.C.’s expression becomes one of utter seriousness. He leans toward Kenny with a mixture of hatred and disgust rising off him like steam.
"I’ll have you know," he grates, "my sister is blind."
Now J.C. has no sisters, only three brothers, but Kenny doesn’t know this. Have you ever seen one of those movies where, at the end, the bad-guy’s face literally melts and slides down off the front of his head? This is like that. J.C. is still pretty serious looking, and Ken just looks kinda sick,
but Jennie Beth and I are cracking up and Ken can see he’s been had. He jumps up and storms away. Sue looks as if she isn’t sure whether to laugh or cry.
"You’ll thank us for this, later," I reassure her.
"Honey, I promise you can do better than that," Jennie Beth chimes in. It’s odd, I guess, but she and Sue become really good friends after that.

Now, it’s getting pretty close to three or four weeks before prom, and it occurs to me that I don’t have a date. It also occurs to me that I should ask my great good friend, Jennie Beth. I mean, who better than my partner in crime and fellow avenger? She’s not in school the day this brainstorm hits me, so I walk the several blocks from school to where she lives. She answers the door looking like she doesn’t feel so good and I nearly chicken out. I summon my courage, however, and after the usual chit-chat, ask her straight out:
"Hey, you wanna go to the prom? It’s only a few weeks away."
She doesn’t look at me, which I take for a bad sign. She’s looking down and I think she’s crying at first, but when she looks up, there’s this incredibly sad expression on her face.
"Rick and I are getting married this weekend." She gives me a sad-eyed little smile.
Rick Gibson, who graduated last year. I know they’ve dated a couple of times, but this catches me completely by surprise. I smile back, somehow, my heart at shoe-top level.
"Uh, well. Congratulations. All the best to you guys." I’m not sure how sincere this sounds, but I’m trying really hard, regardless.
"Thanks," she replies softly.
"Well, look. I gotta get on out of here. I’ll see you around, huh?" I turn to go.
"Hey?" I turn back. "Can I have one of those sweet kisses of yours?" She asks with that sad-smile.
Unable to reply, I reach out to touch her face and a teardrop rolls down my thumb. Our lips touch and it’s like fire. This girl can kiss like fire and even if she is breaking my heart, I’m burning from the top of my head to the soles of my feet and right now all that matters is this kiss. I pull back finally and gaze into those eyes for a moment. Isn’t it funny how, sometimes, you don’t realize things until it’s too late?
"Uh, I’ll be seeing you." I step off the porch.
"Bye." Her voice is barely audible. I don’t look back this time.

I saw her one more time. I’d heard she’d had a baby, a boy, that December in what would have been our senior year. The summer after my freshman year in college, I ran into her in the grocery store. She had her little boy with her. Jennie looked a little rough. You know, kind of tired and unhappy. I’d heard she and Rick weren’t getting along.
"Boy, you still breaking little girls’ hearts up there in college?" She asked, grinning a little bit like the old Jennie Beth.
"You bet. They love me," I grinned back.
We chatted a while longer, then we both had to go. Later on, that fall, I heard that she and Rick had a fight and she drove off in her car, upset and crying. She ran a stop sign and a pickup slammed into her driver’s door. We were having mid-terms and I couldn’t make the six hour drive home for the funeral. I heard it was real nice

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Kisses Like Fire, Part 1: My Great Good Friend

I need to remember this, so baby give me just one kiss. -Don Henley

Ninth grade math must be the most boring class in the known universe. I mean it is math, after all. But the alternative would be geometry and I’m a junior and I nearly flunked Algebra when I was actually in the ninth grade, so here I am in Mr. Denton’s ninth grade math class, bored out of my mind. I’m doodling on a sheet of notebook paper while Mr. Denton is working math problems on the blackboard. Jennie Beth is gazing over my shoulder, admiring my artistry. I admire things about her too, but that goes without saying. 
Mr. Denton drones on. I am sketching the pirate from the "Draw the Pirate and Win An Art Scholarship" ad. Not bad. Hmm, something about him looks familiar. I begin to outline the profile again, but larger. Who is this guy? I fill in the facial features leaving off the mustache and the pirate hat. Holy Cow! Jennie Beth stifles an incredulous giggle. Mr. Denton looks our way. We have disrupted this class before. Two juniors have no business in a class full of ninth graders. They worship us and find our every utterance falling-down funny.
He stares at us, certain that we are the source of the unseemly noise. Jennie Beth, brow furrowed, is copying the problem from the board in her most studious manner. I myself am staring at the blackboard with rapt attention, unable to believe the precise
calculations of this man of science, this mathematical marvel of a man. Honestly, I don’t know how the Drama Club survived before we came along.
He turns back to the board. I return my attention to the notebook. The resemblance is uncanny.
"It’s him!" Jennie Beth breathes near my ear. As a rule, I would come unglued if she breathed in my ear, but she’s right. It’s a perfect caricature of Denton. I can’t help but notice the similarity to a young Hermann Goering. He has the same blond, jowly profile, the same low-slung brow, the same piggy little eyes.
Image result for hermann goering
Achtung, mein Reichsmarschall!
I begin to shade in the day’s worth of stubble Denton always seems to have. As I admire my handiwork, a warning jab hits my ribs. I become aware of movement in front of me. Oh, oh. He’s spotted me. In a few strokes, without thinking, I pencil in an eye patch and pretend to be outlining the hat.
"You’re supposed to be copying the problems on the board."
"Uh, yessir, I’m sorry. I was just trying to win a scholarship."
"You might be better off if you concentrated on the subject you’re actually in class for."
I’m saved by a suppressed snort of laughter two rows over. My little ninth-grade buddy Troy is finding the whole thing unbearably amusing. Denton turns on him.
"Mr. Cowsner, settle down and get back to work."
Outside in the hall after class, Jennie Beth nudges me with her elbow.
"Ooh, you were nearly a goner there, boy."
"I thought I was pretty smooth, with the eye patch and all."
"Right. Well it looked to me like he stared at it an awful long time. I bet he really knows and he’s just saving it up for later." She put on her best mean Southern sheriff face, "You in a heapa trouble, boy!"
Troy and one of his partners eases over to us. "What were you guys doing over there?"
I produce my masterpiece, from which I have removed the eye patch and vestiges of a pirate hat. He and his little friend guffaw, nearly falling over each other in the process. Like I said, by the time we’re seniors, we’ll be gods around this place. We leave ‘em in stitches.

"Are you going to Puka’s party?" Jennie Beth asks.
Puka is our friend whom I have gone to school with since second grade. Puka is not his real name, but a derivative of a childhood nickname, Pookie Bear, which we have latched onto, and not being as cruel as we might (he’s our friend!), have bowdlerized into something semi cool-sounding.
"Probably. You?"
" She’s going to be there."
"Just saying."
She, of course, was the incredibly lovely Juanita Henson, my ex, whom I had caught sitting on the knee of a supposed good friend of mine, with her treacherous wench-like arm around his shoulder, giggling into his ear. He was eating it up, the dog.
"So, are you going or not?" I ask.
"Wouldn’t miss it," she grins her evil-witch grin.
Puka’s parents have this nice house out in the country, in the middle of the family farm. His dad is nowhere to be seen, and his mom is pretty cool, actually. She was one of our room mothers in elementary school. She tells me there’s drinks and chips and dips over on the picnic table on the patio, so I wander on over to where I see a couple of my classmates standing and join them in the middle of a tall tale being told by Albert Turbeville, our all-district halfback. He halts his story to greet me with the famous Turbeville smirk.
"Boy, I hear you been misbehaving in math class again."
"Nahh, that’s just an exaggerated report from a bunch of easily impressed ninth-graders."
"Hey." Somebody pokes me and I turn to see Jennie Beth, looking mighty cute in a sleeveless pullover and a pair of not-too-conservative shorts.
"So, are you trying to show off your beautiful legs or something?"
"They are beautiful, aren’t they? Thank you. You’re very cute yourself." I knew it was a lie but let it pass.
"Kin Ah git yuh some chips and dips, Miss Jennie Beth, Ma’am?" I ask in my best bashful Southern-boy voice.
"You may." She extends her hand in her most gracious Southern lady manner. It is a game we made up our first year together in Drama Club, when she was a transfer student.
I return with the food, and she points to the driveway. Juanita Henson is arriving with a couple of her cheerleader cronies in tow. I focus my full attention on the chips and dips, ignoring the spectacle.
"So where’s Puka?" I ask.
"Don’t look now," she replies.
I turn and Puka is welcoming the latecomer to the party. He is performing above and beyond the thoughtful host call of duty.
"Let’s take a walk," Jennie Beth suggests. I agree and we wander around the side of the house. The cottonfield  is in full bloom, red and white blossoms blending their fragrance with that of the warm night air. She slips her hand into mine. Good friends comfort each other like that. She has this little ole girl-hand that is soft and squeezable. Good friends, right? We stop at the edge of the yard, staring down the long cotton rows in the moonlight. She leans up against me, and I hang my arm over her shoulder. I feel her nose nuzzle against my cheek and turn to kiss her. Did I mention that her kisses are like fire? I could fall in love with a woman who kisses like this, but it would be a shame to mess up this really great friendship.
"Let’s do something mean," she whispers. I grin, glad she is my friend. We begin to walk back toward the front of the house.
"Come on, put your arm around my waist," she instructs. We approach the patio where Juanita is standing with a group of our friends.
"Laugh like I said something really funny," says Jennie. I do my best horse laugh. I mean, it’s not Ricky Ricardo, but it’s pretty raucous. Juanita turns to look, and Jennie Beth grabs my face with both hands and plants a big ole kiss right on my mouth; tongue and
all. Juanita stares for a moment, then stalks off down the driveway, leaving the field to the victors. Game, set and match. We gloat, while trying not to be too obvious about it. Like I said, I’m glad this girl is my friend.